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volume 5 number 10 october 2000 TipSheet

Welcome to the October issue of MicroMetric's TipSheet.

This monthly newsletter is targeted at addressing the needs of our customers.

This month we'll revisit the subject of Backups.


Chances are you don't think much about your PC's hard drive, but what would you do without the precious data it holds? Your financial records, your appointment calendar, and maybe that project you've been working on for years--all stored as billions of magnetic, microscopic points on metal platters spinning at thousands of revolutions per minute. If anything goes wrong with this finely tuned electromechanical system, all your data can be gone in 60 nanoseconds. And despite decades of research and testing by thousands of talented engineers, things still go wrong.

So have you backed up your data today? If you don't regularly back up your computer, don't feel too bad--you have lots of company. And if you are one of the forward-thinking few who back up regularly, you deserve a medal. If you aren't, you must like living dangerously

A recent article in PC World (Hassle-Free Backups, October, 2000)summarizes test results form four types of backups - Travan tape drives, CD rewritable drives, DVD-RAM drives, and online services.

Tape drives are the tried and true solution. Most new drives are in the 20GB range (10GB uncompressed) The two most common types are internal EIDE (faster by about 20%)and external parallel port (easier to install). Tapes are moderately expensive (~$40) with 3-10 normally required, and should be replaced after several years of use. Problems normally occur when automatic backup reports are not checked, or the failure of the tape drive or media (according to Murphy, always at the time you most need it).

CDRW drives have come down in price (just over half the cost of tape drives) and the media is longer lasting and less expensive. The down side is that one unit of media only holds a tenth the data of a tape. However, CDRW drives serve other purposes, suck as archival data storage and let you create custom music CD's. The two major interfaces are EIDE and SCSI. Data transfer during backup is usually faster than tape backup, with CD-R (write once) being the fastest. CD-RW can be reused, but need to be fully formatted first - a process that normally takes 15-20 minutes.

DVD drives are the new kid on the block, and just aren't ready for prime time yet. Most use a SCSI interface, and are pricey - $400-$650. Capacity is high with up to 5.3GB per cartridge, but current drives can only write on one side - to you the other side, it needs to be manually turned over. Media cost is similar to that for tape drives. A major problem is a standards battle on the low level format - like the one between VHS and BetaMax. Maybe in a year or two, but we don't recommend it for the present.

Internet Storage is another new technology solution currently in a state of flux. Not practical unless you have a broadband Internet connection, it's still almost an order of magnitude slower that the others. Online backup conforms to one little-mentioned rule of backing up: You should always store backup media away from your computer. Some services offer a basic minimum level of storage free of charge. Most charge on a monthly or yearly basis - $100 per year for 100MB seems about average. Most sites provide software to handle the transfers, and will backup the desired files initially, with only modified files being transferred during subsequent backups.

Summary. Okay, so you agree that you need to get serious about backing up. But which method should you choose? CD-R and CD-RW are beginning to come into prominence, and in many cases have distinct advantages over tape drives. However, if you only have small amounts of data, and a fast internet connection, internet storage might be the best route.

Next month we'll discuss CD backups in greater detail.

Copyright 2000, MicroMetric, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Permission to copy in total, with this statement and copyright, is hereby granted.

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